"A new beginning," this is how President Barack Obama dubbed his constitutive speech at Cairo University on June 4th, 2009. A proper name for his next address there would be "an old, familiar ending."
President Obama’s foreign policy has been an utter failure since he was elected and entered the White House. Peace had not arrived, Islam had not moved closer to the West, and the radicals gained strength and toppled the moderates.
Egypt, which was a symbol of possibility in the Middle East, has become a symbol of the impossible towards the end of Obama’s first term in office – a tangible demonstration of lacking diplomatic understanding and its fateful consequences.
President Obama is, more than anything, the hero of a tragedy he created with his own hands. He truly believed in his election slogan and in his ability to lead the world toward a new dawn from the Cairo podium. Obama believed that through the power of words and pressure on Israel, this dry regional desert will give rise to democracy, human rights and peace. In short, he believed, instead of studying reality.
At the beginning of February 2011, top US intelligence officials arrived for a Senate hearing. The first to offer a report on the situation in Egypt was Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who displayed stunning ignorance when claiming that the Muslim Brotherhood movement is mostly secular. Later, he had to issue an unusual correction for this statement.
A week later, CIA Chief Leon Panetta also had trouble defining the Islamist organization as radical. The words these officials uttered were the result of a policy that failed to understand reality. The spirit of the US commander-in-chief turned into blindness.
Obama is not the first to be afflicted by the Mideast syndrome, whereby utopian dreams of Biblical peace will materialize if only Israel shows a little flexibility. The bodies of these mistaken individuals are piling up here at a dizzying pace. The rate of building monuments for peace talks and agreements is no less impressive.
After all, who doesn’t want peace? Who doesn’t want a new dawn where former foes drink coffee and eat hummus together, instead of bearing swords?
Three years have passed since that Cairo speech, and at the White House too officials are seeing how the dawn pledged by Obama is dissipating and turning into the darkness of the burqa. Even there they see how democratization has turned into Islamization and how the house of cards built by Obama has collapsed, leaving only dangerous dust in its wake.
The mirror effect
The explanation to this has to do with the mirror effect. Obama looked at the Islamic world and thought he was seeing himself. He was convinced that their way of thinking and desires are similar. He thought that the ignorant masses can be persuaded to live a better, freer life with respect for women and minorities, exactly as he would want it to be.
Obama attempted to press Israel because he thought this was merely a dispute about territory and national honor. He failed to understand the basis of the gap; the cultural-religious abyss that cannot be bridged with slogans and a good speech.
In Israel’s context, there is no choice but to admit that Ehud Barak – the man we love to hate both in the Left and Right – was right. We are a villa in the jungle. Around us we see Syrians who butcher women and children indiscriminately. The Shiite Hezbollah dominates Lebanon, a small Hashemite tribe in Jordan rules over millions of Palestinians using force, Hamas rules Gaza, and now we also have a fundamentalist Muslim regime in Egypt.
And so, new peace hopes are important, yet regrettably, the Middle East has remained old, just the way we know it.
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